Leica, the German photography specialist, and Xiaomi, one of the major players in the world of smartphones, have just partnered. If we know Xiaomi well on Frandroid, we know Leica a little less. Who is this manufacturer that has been making cameras since the beginning of the last century?
Xiaomi has been experiencing phenomenal growth in the world for two years. The Chinese smartphone manufacturer has thus taken advantage of the Huawei crisis to afford the size of the lion and move to second place in the ranking of the largest manufacturers -alternating with Apple, depending on the quarter-. In 2021, the firm sold more than 190 million smartphones worldwide.
Moreover, if Xiaomi initially opted for unbeatable prices, its smartphones are increasingly positioned as high-end products, such as the latest Xiaomi 12 Pro, launched at 1,100 euros.
To further support its photography experience, already greatly boosted with last year’s Mi 11 Ultra, the manufacturer announced in late May 2022 a major partnership with Leica, a German camera manufacturer.
Leica camera: a renowned German specialist
If you don’t know Leica (Leitz contraction and “camera”), a brief history is necessary. Leica is a German camera manufacturer that started out designing microscopes in the late 19th century, before being bought by Leitz, a partner in the company. Who says microscope says lenses, and therefore we understand a little better the link with cameras.
A company engineer, Oskar Barnack, had the idea, in 1905, of create a compact camera as he found the cameras of the time too bulky. In 1913, he produced the first prototype of a ur leica using a 24 x 36mm negative, the 35mm film used by cinema, but here in a horizontal offset. The camera was marketed in 1925 under the name Leica I and was a hit with photojournalists thanks to its compact housing.
Leica quickly found its target: a niche market, looking for beautiful and effective products, despite a sale price much higher than those charged by the competition. Great photographers have used (and still use) Leica cameras, which allowed the brand to get good publicity without a huge marketing budget. Ideas and innovations were also part of the game, with the Leica I model C, the first 24 x 36 camera with an interchangeable lens, or the Leica II, with a rangefinder approach that avoided moving to measure the distance with the subject.
The digital change a bit tight
Leica struggled to tackle digital change with a major loss of several million euros in the financial years of 2004 and 2005. The wealthy Austrian Andreas Kaufmann believes in the potential of Leica and injects several tens of millions of euros into the business. Leica recovers its growth, manages to find investments and enters the digital camera market hand in hand with Panasonic, since the Japanese decided in 1995 to use Leica lenses. Leica makes some digital cameras, but also renames many Panasonic products, in different casings, with the famous red logo as a distinguishing mark.
The firm was able to recompose itself in the second half of the 2010s and, if Leica still does not compete with the sales of Sony or Canon in the world of cameras, the manufacturer now offers many digital camera references, even in the full range. frame camera segment. The latest is none other than the Leica M11 with a 60-megapixel sensor and rangefinder.
Leica had also worked in 2014 on a smartphone for the less original, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1. This quickly abandoned smartphone already had the merit of offering a great photosensor and looked like a real camera.
A partnership with Huawei
In 2015, Leica partnered with a smartphone manufacturer for the first time. It was Huawei, then growing in the high-end segment. This partnership marked Huawei’s rise in photographic quality with the launch of the Huawei P9 and its second monochrome sensor.
Without a doubt, this association will have marked the various evolutions of Huawei’s smartphones, making the Chinese manufacturer one of the best players in the world of smartphone photography, in particular for the effectiveness of its night shooting mode. .
However, the crisis that Huawei has been experiencing since 2019 in the world of smartphones -with the end of Google services and the disappearance of 5G compatibility- has dealt a heavy blow to this alliance. Earlier this year Huawei launched its P50 and P50 Pro, two smartphones still designed in partnership with Leica, but they should be the last models to benefit from this partnership. It must be said that Leica has other ambitions in the world of smartphones.
A Leica smartphone developed with Sharp
In 2021, Leica wanted to emancipate itself from Huawei for the first time by developing a smartphone with a unique photographic module. In the Japanese market, two smartphones were released in quick succession, the Sharp Aquos R6 and the Leica Leitz Phone 1.
In fact, they were two smartphones with similar characteristics, but distinguished by the integration of a 1-inch type sensor, a novelty in a smartphone since the Lumix DMC-1. Since then, Sony has repeated the experience with its Xperia Pro-I, but the Japanese manufacturer only uses part of it, unlike Leica in the two models launched in 2021.
A new partnership with Xiaomi
On May 23, 2022, Xiaomi and Leica finally confirmed their upcoming partnership. If its outlines remain rather vague, the ambition seems to be the same as for all previous Leica partnerships with smartphone manufacturers: to offer both the reputation and brand image of Leica and to considerably improve the photographic quality of Xiaomi smartphones. .
Xiaomi and @leica_camera have officially entered into a global strategic partnership in mobile imaging.
Combining the legendary image and innovative technology, let’s look forward to a new era of mobile photography in July! pic.twitter.com/GyFut9ZTlg
—Xiaomi (@Xiaomi) May 23, 2022
Xiaomi clarifies in a tweet that the goal is “to further improve the photographic quality of Xiaomi smartphones to enrich the user experience”. Above all, the Japanese firm specifies that the first-born of this association will be announced during the month of July 2022. Xiaomi is precisely expected to present, in the coming months, its next premium smartphone, the Xiaomi 12 Ultra. Given the photographic performance of its predecessor, the Mi 11 Ultra, it would make a lot of sense for Leica to collaborate with this new photophone.
The content of the partnership between Xiaomi and Leica remains to be defined. It can be anything from a simple brand addition to co-development of optics, sensors, or even image processing software.
Above all, while Huawei and Leica were almost the only manufacturers to join forces at the end of the previous decade, this type of association has multiplied in the last two years between photo manufacturers and smartphone manufacturers. Hasselblad now works together with OnePlus and Oppo, while Zeiss collaborates with Vivo.
To follow us, we invite you to download our app for Android and iOS. You can read our articles, archives and watch our latest YouTube videos.